Staying safe as the weather warms up

Posted at 9:19 AM, Apr 29, 2021

Each year more than 1,200 people die, and thousands are injured in bicycle, roller blade, scooter or skateboard accidents.

Intermountain Healthcare hospitals and clinics are also already seeing an increase in the number of outdoor and ATV accidents this year as people stop quarantining due to the COVID-19 pandemic and seek to enjoy more outdoor activities.

As many head head south to recreate in Utah’s beautiful state and national parks. If a trip to red rock country is on the bucket list this summer, Intermountain Healthcare physicians have a few safety reminders:

- Don’t overdo it and try to do more than your experience level
- Find a hiking or canyoneering guide who understands the difficulties and terrain
- “Remember you are not in the same peak fitness condition you were at when you went into exercise hibernation last fall – so take it easy,” said John Sutherland, MD, FACS, medical director of the Trauma Program at Intermountain St. George Regional Hospital.

And don’t forget the right gear for a safe and healthy summer!

“The huge key to saving your life is wearing the right equipment – including a helmet,” said Dr. Sutherland. “Helmets maybe hot – or inconvenient or annoying but it’s definitely worth it. We see a huge difference in patients who crash with and without a helmet.”

Utah has more traumatic brain injuries among children than almost any other state in the country, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control. Sadly, ATV crashes play a major role in that statistic. Simply wearing a helmet, even for short rides, goes a long way in keeping everyone safe.

Also, don’t forget to check the expiration date and fit of all helmets. Most helmets are designed to last about two to five seasons and only one impact - similar to air bags in a car. Hair product, sweat, and cleaning solutions can break down the liner and interior padding of helmets. Kids outgrow helmets like they outgrow everything else. Make sure that helmet still fits before your first ride of the year.

“Replacing a helmet can add up, but it’s cheaper than a trip to the emergency department,” said Dr. Sutherland.

Utah Department of Health data shows that a child is 1,000 times more likely to be injured riding on an ATV than riding in a car.

“Don’t forget there is more to protective gear than just a helmet,” said Jessica Strong, community health manager at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “Goggles, over-the-ankle boots, gloves, sturdy full-length pants, a long-sleeved shirt and the right footwear are all great at taking a little punishment if you take a fall.”

Fatal car crashes typically nearly double during the summer months in Utah. In 2020, Utah’s traffic fatalities reached a 14-year-high and 276 people did not survive. The most common contributing factor to roadway fatalities, according to the Utah Department of Transportation, is failure to buckle up.

In fact, over the last five years, almost half all people who died on Utah’s roads were not buckled up. In 2020, there were 61 unrestrained fatalities on Utah roads and 170 unrestrained serious injuries. Everyone riding in the car should be properly restrained, either in a car seat or a seat belt. Kids should ride in a booster seat until they are 4 feet 9 inches tall.

“The act of buckling up can save your life and the lives of those in your vehicle,” said Don Van Boerum, MD, trauma medical director at Intermountain Medical Center. “It only takes a few seconds, but can keep you from becoming a statistic.”

Rivers in Utah are running high, cold and fast this time of year. Drowning is the second leading cause of death among Utah children under the age of 14.

“Tragedies can happen in the blink of an eye,” said Strong. “Children should always be supervised whenever they are in or around water, even when they are wearing a life jacket.”

Experts at Primary Children’s Hospital have these general water safety guidelines:
- Empty out kiddie pools or buckets of water at home after use
- Have children wear a life jacket whenever near water
- Never take your eyes off of children in the water
- While supervising, stay alert and avoid distractions
- Teach children to swim, but remember, there is no substitute for supervision
- Keep a telephone nearby in case of an emergency

If you are injured this summer, do not delay care. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.